© Ralf Uhler

Hera Hilmar

Hera Hilmar’s first major role was in Gudny Halldorsdottir’s “The Quiet Storm” and Runar Runarsson’s “2 Birds”. Since graduating from London’s LAMDA, Hera’s projects have included Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina”, Christopher Smith’s “Get Santa” and David Goyer’s “Da Vinci’s Demons”. Hera received a Special Mention at the 2014 Zurich Film Festival for her role in Balvin Z’s “Life in a Fishbowl”.

One of the ten European Shooting Stars at this year’s Berlinale, she discusses with Tara Karajica her family and career, feminism, being a Shooting Star, the film industry and Icelandic Cinema.


Your father is a director and your mother an actress. Has it influenced your choice to become an actress?

Hera Hilmar: It definitely has. I think it would silly to say it hasn’t because it’s been around me forever and, of course, that’s been a huge inspiration. But, you also see the ups and downs of the business and sometimes there’s no work, sometimes there’s no money, sometimes long hours and sometimes traveling and all that… It also made me see something in it that I loved and wanted to pursue even if it would be really tough.

Your big break was in Anna Karenina in 2012 but you are most famous for your role in the TV series Da Vinci’s Demons. How have these two different opportunities and formats shaped your career? Which format do you prefer?

H.H.: The difference between films and TV is that I feel that with TV series you get this huge group of fans around it; they’re really supportive and you become this character to them – your character in the show – and that’s amazing but it’s also tricky because, personally, you have to really be careful about yourself in it because you can really easily get lost in it especially if you’re really young. People just start seeing you as that thing and you do it for a while and it becomes such a big part of your life. I’ve definitely had to work at it and be really on it and aware of how it affects me and make sure it doesn’t in a bad way. But in a good way, it also trains you to deal with so much stuff like the publicity side of things, the fan side, the production side… With the films, they have always been my passion and that’s kind of why I want to do this. I remember being shitscared on set. It’s kind of easier if you’re playing the lead or if you’re part of something from the beginning; all the attention is on you but if you play smaller parts, sometimes you just need to deal with it, get on with it and just deliver really quickly. When you’re young and you may be surrounded by cute actors and amazing people, it’s kind of intimidating! I don’t know… It just opened up a new world to me and I love it!

What do you expect from Shooting Stars? Where do you expect it would take your acting career?

H.H.: Nothing specific other than, I think, it’s a great opportunity to meet a lot of people and that’s already happened. It’s also a great opportunity to see what you really want to do and this film that I am kind of here on the back of, Life in a Fishbowl, is something that I am really proud of and is close to my heart. Of course, everything you do is but some things are more so because of, I don’t know, the journey of having to deliver that piece of art and I am really grateful for that. So many people see and get to know about something that you love as much as that. I just hope that it will keep opening up doors and my acting will go further and I hope that I can keep doing this for longer.

You have always been very steeped in Film. What is your opinion on today’s film industry?

H.H.: It’s a tough business where you need to have tough skin and you need to be able to deal with a lot of rejections, a lot of love, a lot waiting, a lot of money issues, a lot of this and that… I don’t think that anyone goes into this business unless they are a bit mad! I think that’s great about it because you’ve got a business of kind of mad people! I think the commercial side of it can be crueler than the other side. I think I found it more in terms of TV: more commercial and crueler in that way just because it’s quicker and different. A film is a film unless you may be doing a few of them but with TV series, you need to deliver for a longer time but you just have to laugh at it, take it with a pinch of salt and just get on with it and when you start doing that, you just start enjoying it, I guess.

Icelandic Cinema has been enjoying a lot of success recently. How do you perceive the Iceland Film Industry?

H.H.: Yeah! I think it’s great! I really, really think so and I think it’s great seeing it develop. I am not that old but I’ve been watching it since I was a kid and it’s really changed a lot. I hope it doesn’t try to become too commercial or try to copy too much other stuff like American stuff. We’re always trying to copy Scandinavia as well. In a way, I think it’s good in terms of everything you like, you want to do something of the same standard or something like it but I think there’s something really special about the films that we make. I think that we should also hold on to that and it’s great that we are doing so much. I just hope that the funding keeps coming to it because we need the funding; otherwise we can’t do anything!

I think it’s very confusing what feminism is to people. To me, it’s just supporting equal rights because being a feminist isn’t about being aware that we need a push… It doesn’t mean that we women are better than men.

You are inspired by four strong women in your family. How do you feel about the place of women in the film industry?

H.H.: Until the age of nine, I think, it was my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother, my great great grandmother and me. We didn’t all live in the same house or anything, but I knew my great great grandmother until she died when she was 104. I was too young to be able to be like “Granny, what was it like to be living in the 1890s?”. My mom had me at Drama School and my parents were working a lot and I was a lot with my grandmothers, so I spent a lot of time with older women as a kid. I think it’s a really important thing. For me, at least, it was because I think it’s really important to mix ages in life as much as we can because you just learn things that you don’t learn at school, especially as a woman. I think that when you are trying to make your voice heard or do parts where there are women because they don’t get the same opportunities as men at the moment, although it’s changing definitely and the stories are also changing…

Would you consider yourself a feminist?

H.H.: Yeah! I think it’s very confusing what feminism is to people. To me, it’s just supporting equal rights because being a feminist isn’t about being aware that we need a push, that we need to push women forwards. It doesn’t mean that we women are better than men. I think it’s crazy how people take feminism in different ways. The other day I was thinking “Can I actually call myself a feminist?” because ideas just relate to words so quickly. What if someone’s idea of a word is completely off, and I haven’t used that word? I think it’s the tricky thing in this thing but I’m gonna say yes because how I see it, it’s just believing in equal rights for women and men and I think it’s an important thing that we work at it and keep it in our minds.

What are your next projects?

H.H.: I’ve got a film called Summer Children coming out this year from Iceland and then Da Vinci’s Demons season 3 is coming out. I’m about to possibly do a film in London now but I haven’t signed a deal so I am going to wait until I do to say anything about it. And then, some Icelandic stuff that I am looking at at the moment.


This interview was conducted at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival. 

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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